A letter to the boy at the funeral home today:
I attended a funeral today. I didn’t know the man who died, but I know he was your whole world. I stood in a room surrounded by people whose lives he touched. I’m sure you didn’t know all of them, but I know we both felt the pain and suffering among them…the sense of loss. I heard mention of offices having closed for business today because of his death, and employees taking a scheduled moment of silent prayer in his honor. You must be proud of him. As I looked around the crowded room where some stood because every seat was occupied by someone who felt the need to pay their respects, I thought big or small this man made a difference in these people’s lives. I know he did in yours. Colleagues, friends, family members and employees all came together in grief, heads bowed, hands linked together. And then I saw you. I knew of your existence but hadn’t caught a glimpse of you. I prayed for you last night, a faceless eight year old boy who suddenly lost his father this weekend. You walked past me, dressed all in black with your head down, as hands reached out and touched the top of your head, your arm, your shoulder, all in an effort to comfort you, all seeking comfort for themselves as well. Your father walked this earth for forty-two years, yet for you it has only been eight…not enough time for a father and son. So many lessons you will now learn from someone else, so many new memories which will now be created without your father, and so many memories that will someday fade and in time possibly disappear for one so young as you. And yet I can’t help but think it may not be such a bad thing for some memories to fade, because in so fading so does some of the pain.
We are so often admonished for not hanging on to our memories, especially those really tragic ones, events which you are too young to remember. “Never Forget” they say, and I do understand the need to remember. However, in order to move on we need to allow ourselves to somewhat forget, to let go a little of the pain and despair that accompanies some of those memories. We will always remember those we hold dear, but focusing on the here and now gives us the perspective necessary to take the next step. Grief is good. Besides being a necessary and vital process, it reminds us to be grateful for still being among the living. It makes us look around us with newfound appreciation. It jolts us back to truly living instead of just going through the motions. When we experience loss, we also experience the gift of life, of opening our eyes to what truly matters on our individual and collective journeys. When we do this, we realize every day things such as the bed not being made or dirty clothes piling up on the floor aren’t the big things in our lives, but they are still essential to keeping us grounded and focused on the here and now. Each of these minor responsibilities is key in keeping us balanced enough to face what comes and let go a little of what has already come. I know you’re too young to understand this, but one day I hope you will. I hope you will experience life fully and find much to keep you grounded. I hope you keep your eyes open to the magnitude of all the little things in life we so often take for granted. I hope you reach out to those around you without shame when you need support. And, I hope you never hesitate to do the same for someone experiencing the weight of the world on their shoulders…much like you do today.
On this day, I pray for you and your mother to find balance as you begin your journey of grief. I pray each step takes you a little closer to peace in your heart. I pray you cherish those memories of your father, and hold them close as you take each step toward becoming a man one day. I pray each load of laundry, each household chore, each homework assignment, each mundane task carries you to your next chapter, your new way of life…a new sense of normalcy.